As I reflect on my 10 years at the GTHS, it amazes me that in so many ways, not a thing has changed, while so much has evolved at the same time. When you arrive at the Humane Society, the place is a hive of activity. Team members are bustling back and forth. Everyone is smiling. Animals are everywhere and when you see them, you are filled with strong and immediate feelings of love, deep compassion and if I’m honest, a touch of sympathy. You want to see them on a couch, contented in a loving home.
The GTHS has always been extremely busy, right from day one. I remember in my training learning about our waitlist binder. It was 4 months long with page after page of people desperately needing to bring in homeless pets. In the 10 years I have worked at the GTHS there has not been one quiet day, one boring moment. We have been busy every single day.
The change that is taking place is that slowly, we have moved from being reactive to becoming proactive, with the goal of helping keep people and pets together. We have opened an animal hospital, moved from an Operational Board to a Governance Board structure and we’ve developed innovative programs that make a real impact in the lives of pets and people in our community.
At the GTHS, over the past 10 years, because of the courage of our staff, donors and volunteers, we have challenged the status quo. We think outside the box to do what is RIGHT, not what has always been done. That is what I am truly proud of, especially as I think back to one family I remember distinctly who came to us several years ago. They arrived at the GTHS with their 8-month-old cat that had a broken leg. They could not afford the surgery to repair the leg and surrendered the kitten into our care. The entire family sobbed in our lobby. I remember them piling into their van to leave, the dad covered in tears, the mom carrying their youngest daughter. At the time, we did not have a program to keep pets with their families and so we took the kitten in, repaired the leg, and adopted it into a new home. I am still haunted by this memory, because that cat already had a home and I feel deeply upset that we pulled them apart.
Today, when a family comes to us with a pet in need, we do whatever we can to keep them together. When a stray dog or cat comes in as part of the pound program and their receiving parents are financially in need, we give their pet vaccinations and a microchip before sending them home. We do this free of charge because it is the right thing to do. We don’t demand surrender fees – because we understand that often that is not accessible. We now have 4 programs geared at keeping pets together with their families – and these programs are working. What’s breaking my heart is that for every one case we help, we are turning four other cases away. The population we are serving is growing more rapidly than our resources can keep up.
I am so incredibly proud of the team I get to work alongside every day. Everything we accomplish is because of their endless hard work, unwavering compassion, and steadfast resilience. Our work is hard. Plain and simple and it takes everyday people, real team players, that do what it takes for the voiceless in our communities.
I also want to acknowledge the GTHS donors, who overwhelm me with gratitude and inspiration. It is because of our donors that I am now a donor myself. Philanthropy is part of our family budget planning.
To date, GTHS donors have been able to support over 14,000 homeless animals that have come to us in need because our donors are unwavering in their support of vulnerable pets. I mean, think about that; 14,000 dogs and cats. It’s a staggering number and each one of those lives is precious.
Gandhi once said that the greatness of a nation and its moral compass can be judged by the way its animals are treated and I am so proud to be part of the South Georgian Bay region because pets, and the people that care for them, are sheltered, and cared for because of our deeply compassionate donors.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me over the past 10 years here at the GTHS. I look forward to the future ahead and opening the doors of our Regional Centre for Pets and People.